My new year’s resolution for 2016 is to make more trips to Venice. And now that I have created my list of top events for the upcoming year, I am tempted to spend even more time in this wonderful city. If you have something similar in mind, you certainly have to keep reading so you can choose the best period to go.
I have selected a range of events which can add something special to your trip to Venice. There are of course the obvious ones, such as Carnevale di Venezia or the Architecture Biennale, but you can also attend local celebrations, such as the Festa di San Marco or the Festa della Salute. I have included traditional festivities, such as the Regata Storica, as well as new events such as Yachting in Venice or the Venice Night Trail and exhibitions in musea. Some of these last a couple of weeks, so you can easily pick a date when you can combine one or more of them. Or if you want to make sure you’re going in a – relatively – more quiet period, you can use these dates as a no-go period.
The descriptions below will give you a first idea of the events, so you can plan accordingly. I will publish more details and insider tips on each of them, closer to their respective start date, on my blog and Facebook page. During the year, I will also update this list and move the events which already took place to the bottom of this page. This allows you to quickly see the upcoming events.
Exhibition Until April 10
This is the first exhibition dedicated to Andrea Schiavone (1510-1563), an Italian Renaissance painter and etcher. More than 80 paintings, drawings and prints are on display, of which most have never been shown at an exhibition before. Although initially much influenced by Parmigianino and Italian Mannerism, Schiavoni was also known for his Venetian painting techniques. With his unique combination of both styles, he influenced a.o. Titian, Tintoretto and Jacopo Bassano, of whom there are also works on display in this exhibition.
Exhibition January 23 – April 4
The exhibition offers a fresh perspective on American and European art in the period between the end of World War II and 1979. It will also focus on the work of Jack Tworkov (1900–1982) and Claire Falkenstein (1908–1997). Jack Tworkov is one of the prominent figures of the abstract expressionist movement in America. Claire Falkenstein is known for her entrance gates to Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, now the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, in 1960.
Tradition January 23 – February 9
The Venice Carnival is one of the most well-known carnivals in the world and attracts 3 million visitors per year. It originally started in 1162 to celebrate the victory of Venice against the Patriarch of Aquileia. Over time, it has appeared and disappeared, but it is in place since 1979 as the event we currently know. The opening activities in the first weekend are mainly attended by locals, but from January 30 onwards many more visitors will attend and it will be very crowded for the Festa delle Marie and the Volo dell’Angelo (flight of the angel). The Vollo dell’Aquila (flight of the eagle) and the Svole del Leon are amongst the final celebrations. In between all these activities, you can continuously admire the fabulous costumes and Venetian masks all across the San Marco sestiere. In my post The insider’s guide to Carnevale di Venezia 2016, I write in detail about the history of Carnevale and give you insider tips on the best events and places to enjoy your visit during this very hectic time.
Exhibition From April 17
Palazzo Grassi presents the first Italian retrospective exhibition of Sigmar Polke (1941-2010), a German painter and photographer. Polke experimented with a wide range of styles, subject matters and materials. In the 1970s, he concentrated on photography. In the 1980s, he produced abstract works created by chance through chemical reactions between paint and other products. In the last 20 years of his life, his paintings focused on historical events and perceptions of them. The exhibition is inspired by his project for the German Pavilion presented at the 1986 Biennale, for which he received a Leone d’Oro.
Sports April 23
The participants of this urban trail run 16 km through the historical centre of Venice. They cross 51 bridges and pass all sestieri from Santa Croce on the west side all the way to Sant’Elena on the east side. If you like to run, this is probably one of the most magical runs you can imagine. Subscriptions are already open. Or you can just cheer on the runners when they pass by.
6. Festa di San Marco
Tradition April 25
The Festa di San Marco celebrates Venice’s patron saint, Saint Mark, who died on April 25, 68 A.D. It is also known as the rosebud festival (Festa del boccolo), as men traditionally give a single rosebud (preferably red) to the women they love, and it coincides with the Italian Liberation Day. Hence, there are plenty of reasons to party on this day. There is a mass in the San Marco basilica, followed by the Regata dei Traghetti from Sant’Elena to Punta della Dogana. There are also concerts and markets all over the city.
7. Mare Maggio
This relatively new annual event focuses on the contemporary side of the maritime culture of Venice. It is sort of a trade fair but with a lot of historical elements added to it. There are historical re-enactments and demonstrations of boat-building traditions on the shipyards, but also boats, yachts, books and all types of objects (from decoration to clothing) for people who love the sea. However, most importantly, it takes place in the Arsenale and gives you the opportunity to glimpse behind the walls of the military zone.
8. Festa e Regata della Sensa
Tradition May 8
The Festa della Sensa is an ancient celebration of the relationship between Venice and the sea. The highlight of the day is a symbolic wedding ceremony, in which a golden ring is thrown into the sea. The celebration includes a large procession at sea, headed by the Serenissima boat in which mayor Luigi Brugnaro takes on the traditional role of the Doge. It is followed by colorful parade boats from the rowing associations of Venice. The procession starts in front of San Marco, moves towards Lido and finally north to San Nicolò where the ceremony takes place and a mass is held.
Event May 15
The Vogalonga regata is a non-competitive race where rowers in all types of colorful boats, from canoes to dragon boats, take over the lagoon and canals. The race is a protest against the growing use of powerboats in Venice and the damage they do to the historic city. It already exists since 1975, so even before the huge cruise ships entered the lagoon. Participants gather in the Bacino di San Marco in front of the Palazzo Ducale. They sing hymns to San Marco and begin the race. The 30 km course extends over the northern lagoon, past the islands of Sant’Erasmo, Burano and Mazzorbo and through the centre of Murano before returning to the finish in Venice via Cannaregio and Canal Grande.
Event May 28 – November 27
The 2016 Architecture Biennale promises to be a very interesting exhibition. Curator Alejandro Aravena has chosen ‘Reporting from the front’ as the official title and it is now up to the national participations to translate this in an appealing exposition. As usual, the main venues are Giardini and the Arsenale, but the many national and collateral events across the historic centre of Venice are certainly worth a few days extra. You often get the opportunity to enter buildings which are otherwise closed to the public. Also, there is for the first time a project planned in Forte Marghera, on the mainland. The Architecture Biennale is becoming increasingly important and has therefore been extended to 6 months. You can find more information on the event and on the different country pavilions in my post What to expect from the 2016 Architecture Biennale and on the pages dedicated to the Biennale.
Event June 18
Art Night gives you the opportunity to attend many events, in one way or another linked to culture, all over Venice and for free. Some examples of the 2016 program are a ride in a dragon boat on the Canal Grande from Ca’ Foscari, a guided visit to l’Ateneo Veneto and even a rock concert for teens at Punta della Dogana. The main difficulty is to choose what to attend as it only lasts one night.
12. Festa del Redentore
Tradition July 17 – July 18
The Festa del Redentore celebrates the end of the plague of 1576, which killed 50,000 people. Every year, a pontoon bridge is built across the canal to Guidecca to remember the pilgrimage of Doge Sebastian Venier to the Redentore church. On Saturday, the locals get ready for a full day of parties with family and friends. The Bacino di San Marco fills up with boats of all kinds, festively decorated with balloons and garlands, and thousands of Venetians await the fireworks while dining on the boats and along the Riva. The fireworks last very long and are quite impressive. The religious celebrations take place on Sunday and include a mass and a procession. The festivities end with a regata.
Event August 31 – September 10
The Venice Film Festival was established in 1932 and is the oldest and one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world. The line-up of movies is very long, as is the queue of movie stars on the red carpet. The festival takes place on the island of Lido with screenings in the historic Palazzo del Cinema on the Lungomare Marconi and in other venues nearby. With the exception of the opening night and some premieres, it is relatively easy to get tickets to attend the movies. Alternatively, you can watch the parade of movie stars on the red carpet, which is an event in itself.
14. Regata storica
Tradition September 4
The regata storica is a combination of a historical parade and several rowing races. The historical procession commemorates the welcome given in 1489 to Caterina Cornaro, the wife of the King of Cyprus, who renounced her throne in favour of Venice. Ornate boats with rowers in 16th century costumes carry the Doge, the Doge’s wife and all the highest ranking Venetian officials up Canal Grande in a brightly colored parade. The locals are however mainly interested in the four races that follow the parade: the champions’ regatta in gondolini, the regatta in caorline, the women’s regatta in mascarete and the young rowers’ regatta in pupparini.
15. Venice Marathon
Sports October 23
The Venice Marathon is a second opportunity to have a spectacular run through Venice. It exists since 1986 and has become one of the most popular international marathons. The race is flat and fast and crosses 11 bridges. It starts in Stra, a small town west of Venice, before stretching through many small towns and the industrial estates near Marghera. After crossing the Ponte della Libertà, the best part of the race is a tour in the historical centre of Venice. The finish line is at Riva Sette Martiri. If the 42 km is too long, you can also opt for the shorter distances or the family run. You can find more information in my post ‘The Venice Marathon is one of the major sports events in Venice’.
16. San Martino
Tradition November 11
San Martino is one of the Venetian traditions mainly celebrated by children. On this name day of Saint Martin, the Venetian children go out on the streets dressed up with a cape and armed with pots, pans and cutlery. They make a lot of noise with their tools and sing a traditional San Martino song in the Venetian dialect. With this song, they hope to get money to buy the typical Samartin biscuits. Click here to read my post ‘San Martino: The Venetian version of Epiphany’, which explains the history of this event.
17. Festa della Madonna della Salute
Tradition November 21
The rationale behind the Festa della Salute is similar to the Festa del Redentore, as it also commemorates the end of a plague (this one in 1630-1631) and the construction of a church to thank for this. The procession starts at the San Marco basilica and there is a temporary pontoon bridge to cross Canal Grande from Campo Santa Maria del Giglio to La Salute. All along the route, there are stalls selling cakes and candles to light inside the church. It is a very local event and not attended by many tourists.
Now that you have an idea of what is happening when, you can take your agenda and decide when to take your next trip(s) to Venice. I will publish more details about these events closer to their start date. If you don’t want to miss it, subscribe to The Venice Insider newsletter or follow us on Facebook, Google+, Bloglovin’ or Twitter. If you already want to know more about these events, you can click on the titles to get to their site or surf to the website of Venezia Unica.
18. Yachting in Venice
This new event was planned for the end of April but has been cancelled.
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